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Iowa's Wild Turkeys: A Success Story for Endangered Species

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022   

CORRECTION: Wild turkeys were not on the Endangered Species List, as it had not been created at the time they were hunted to near-extinction. Story has been reworded accordingly. (11:25 a.m. MDT, Nov. 22, 2022)

Wildlife advocates want more species to have the same shot at the type of recovery that wild turkeys experienced. The game birds were once hunted to near-extinction.

There were no wild turkeys in Iowa for much of the last century, but today, there are enough for two hunting seasons in the state, in spring and fall. Nationwide, roughly 7 million wild turkeys roam free.

Conservation groups are asking Congress to provide similar protections to other species, by passing the "Recovering America's Wildlife Act."

John Kanter, senior biologist for the National Wildlife Federation, said the protections would also extend to habitat restoration.

"Less than 1% of our native grasslands are left," Kanter pointed out. "In a place like Iowa, this money could be used to restore those prairie and grassland parcels, recreating more natural prairie and grassland systems."

Kanter noted the ecosystems would in turn provide healthy habitats where species like the Monarch butterfly, once iconic in Iowa, could thrive. It is considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but not by the U.S. government. The Act would devote $1.4 billion to protect species and habitats nationally.

In addition to restoring habitat, the Recovering America's Wildlife Act would allow states to focus on controlling invasive species and addressing wildlife diseases. Kanter stressed the funds would go directly to states and tribes, to help protect fish, wildlife, and plants for future generations.

"A third of species -- known plants and animals in the U.S. -- are at increased risk of extinction," Kanter emphasized. "It's time for us to address this biodiversity crisis, and let's get ahead of it."

The bill passed the U.S. House in June, but is waiting on a Senate vote. More than 40 senators are on board, including 16 Republicans, although neither Iowa senator is on the list.

Disclosure: The National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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Last April the California Fish and Game Commission rejected a petition from the Humane Society to eliminate the state's bear hunt altogether. (California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

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